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So one thing I found odd in the DM's Basic Rules v0.1pdf was a large list of animals that seemed so insignificant as to wonder why it was included in the PDF. For example, the "Rat" monster, has 1 hitpoint, and a CR of 0, it can hit for only 1 point of damage with a +0 to hit.

However, I then noticed that there are swarm creatures, such as a "Swarm of Rats" which has 24 hit points, +2 to hit, 7 damage or 3 damage when it has less than half it's hitpoints, and is listed as "Medium swarm of Tiny beasts". Swarms also have the following trait:

The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.

This made me think that this was very neat. A swarm is made up of indidvual creatures, and each hitpoint means each creature died. So for a swarm of rats, I might think this means that there are 24 rats in the swarm.

But is this actually the case? When a swarm is reduced to 1 or 2 hitpoints, should I switch those out for actual rat creatures? (This would basically cause the swarm to lose the damage resistances, immunities and reduce the amount of damage it can do.)

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2 Answers 2

You can, but there is little sense to do it.

As you noted, the individual creatures are often too weak to fight individually. That is the reason for them to group into swarms to attack. Also, the 1 hp-per-creature in the swarm is not necessarily true. If 3.5 definitions can be used as reference here, a swarm of tiny, land based creatures have 300 or so members (source) so more than 1hp = 1 rat is more like 1hp = a bunch of rats. Also, real-life rat swams seems to agree with that amount. In fact, reducing a swarm hit points to 0 does not necessarily mean killing every one of them (unless you use a fireball or similar method). Most often it means that you killed enough of them to make the rest of the creatures in the swarm disband and flee in all directions.

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Does 3.5 provide stats for individual swarm members? – GMNoob Aug 14 '14 at 9:58
@GMNoob Yes it does (at least in some cases). Here is the individual rat info, for example. – MACN Aug 14 '14 at 10:02
Heh, 1d3-4 they heal you when they bite? Thanks. So you are saying I might need to wait for the monster manual / dmg to see how swarms are defined? Can you see its defined in the dmbasic book similarly to how it is in 3.5? – GMNoob Aug 14 '14 at 10:18
@GMNoob The weird damage is due 3.5 inability to define consistent combat rules to deal with tiny or even smaller creature. And no, cannot seem to find nothing more concrete in the PDF. Looks like you'll have to wait for the book to find something better. – MACN Aug 14 '14 at 10:27


Many of the weak creatures were added to account for the familiars that can be obtained through the 1st level conjuration spell, Find Familiar. Note it is a ritual which also be obtained through the Ritual Caster feat.

Unfortunately that can only be learned by consulting the 5e PHB not the Player's Basic Rule for 5e. It looks like the Wizards team just automatically threw in the list of creatures in the back of 5e PHB along with the other monsters.

On Page 304 of the 5e PHB before the list of creatures in a back appendix.

Many spells and class features allow characters to transform into an animal, summon creatures, serve as familiars, and to create undead.

I will add that various refereeing advice in the various released books stresses the idea that players can attempt things that their character can logically do and the dungeon master uses the rules as guidelines. So it is logical if that a character can obtain one or more individual creatures out of a swarm. That when this occurs you would use the individual creature's stats not the swarm stats.

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